Imagine a church where worship was focused on a specific location, meaning when you thought of church you thought of a building and an address, bricks and mortar. Imagine a church where primary emphasis was given to collecting resources and offerings to fund the maintenance of the building and programs within. Imagine a church where you had to look and act a certain way before you could be accepted by the congregation. Imagine a church where a few select people or maybe just one stood as the bridge between people and God. Although you think I’m describing the majority of churches today, I’m actually describing the temple system in the Old Testament.
The Old Testament temple system was centered around a location, a particular patch of real estate in Jerusalem. The collection of offerings from the people was central to the worship experience because it kept the whole thing running. Only good Jews who were ceremonially clean were allowed within the four walls. Gentiles and other lesser thans need not apply. And between a worshipper and God stood the priests, the select few with the knowledge, training and holiness to bridge the gap between God and people. So what’s the problem? Jesus came to fulfill the Law and abolish the temple. And yet for too many churches, we act like Old Testament churches rather than New Testament churches.
If we think that church is a building and not the people, if it’s a location and not a lifestyle, then we’re acting like Old Testament churches. If the vast majority of our resources are given to maintain buildings rather than helping the poor or giving to missions and making a difference, I would argue we’re operating under an Old Testament mindset, not a New Testament mindset. If you have to look and act like a good Christian to be accepted within the four walls of a church building, if non-believers and non-churched aren’t truly welcomed inside the church, then that church looks more like an Old Testament church than a New Testament church. If a church promotes or elevates the role of pastor or priest to someone who mediates between God and man (and not the priesthood of the believer taught in the New Testament), then that church operates more like an Old Testament church than a New Testament church.
If you go back and read the Gospels, you’ll discover that Jesus never had one good thing to say about the temple in the first century, because it had become corrupted and twisted over the years. Not one good thing. So when he came, he did not come to extend the temple, edit the temple, or even install Temple 2.0. He came to fulfill the Old Testament so that he could replace it with the New.
As Christians and churches today, we must be careful to ensure that our churches and even our approach to God follows the New Testament and not the Old. The Old Testament is inspired Scripture and a beautiful history of God’s interaction with man. But never forget, we live under the New Testament, not the Old. The church has never been the building, it’s always been the people. Our resources are not to be leveraged for our entertainment but for the advancement of the Kingdom. The church was not intended to be a museum preserving an ancient way of life but an Emergency Room for the broken and hurting. And the Holy Spirit indwells and empowers all believers (not just the pastor) to make a difference in their world. We’re New Testament Christians, so let’s be a part of New Testament churches!